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Raw Milk: The Civil Rights Movement of Food?

From Food regulation is one of the most important issues consumers face today. And for people who are concerned with where their food comes from (and how it got there), milk is now at the center of this debate. And because of its health benefits, many more people are turning to raw milk. Even lactose intolerant folks have found they can digest the un-pasteurized liquid; and it’s been said to reduce allergies and asthma in children—ailments that are on the rise in the U.S.
But there’s one hitch: raw milk is illegal. I spoke with journalist David Gumpert, author of The Raw Milk Revolution: Behind America’s Emerging Battle Over Food Rights, about our right to healthy food–what could very well be the new civil rights movement. Makenna Goodman: Okay—I’m just going to ask, even though it seems like it should be obvious: What is raw milk? David Gumpert: Raw milk is just what the name suggests—milk straight from the cow (or goat), which hasn’t been pasteurized (heated to 161 degrees for 15 seconds) or homogenized. MG: Mass media says raw milk is bad for me. Is this true? DG: That is a complicated question. Yes, people do become ill from pathogens that can crop up in raw milk, like campylobacter, salmonella, listeria, and E.coli O157:H7. Most of the illnesses are mild, but occasionally, people have become very ill, and those most inclined toward the serious illnesses are children. But it’s important to note that people also become ill from a variety of other foods, including raw spinach, ground beef, peanut butter, lettuce, and peppers. To the extent the mass media suggest that raw milk is highly dangerous, they are misleading people. Data from the CDC shows in the 33-year period 1973-2005, there have been an average of about 50 reported illnesses annually from raw milk. And consumers should be aware that it’s possible to become ill from pasteurized milk; there have been outbreaks from contamination that has occurred post-pasteurization and led to occasionally thousands of people becoming ill. In Massachusetts during 2007, three elderly people died from contaminated pasteurized milk. MG: What exactly is the difference between pasteurized (the milk we normally drink) and raw milk? DG: Pasteurization is a heat-treatment process that took hold in the early and mid-twentieth century, in response to large numbers of illnesses and deaths from disease (like typhoid and tuberculosis) spread by contaminated raw milk. That, however, was a time when much less was known about the danger of pathogens, or the importance of sanitation and refrigeration. Pasteurization kills off pathogens, and once it was introduced, childhood illness from pathogens in raw milk declined by 25% or more. The decline in illnesses, however, coincided as well with better sewerage systems and cleaner water. There’s been lots of debate in alternative health and nutrition circles as to whether pasteurization, in particular, depletes milk of important “good” bacteria, enzymes, and proteins. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control maintain that pasteurization has no appreciable effect on the nutritional composition of milk, but does get rid of potentially dangerous pathogens like campylobacter and salmonella. Pasteurization is really a processing function, though, and with all the concern over processed food, more people are questioning whether pasteurization does, in fact, alter milk’s composition. MG: What are the health benefits from drinking raw milk? DG: There was a time during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when raw milk was pushed by some in the medical profession as nearly a cure-all for conditions ranging from arthritis to diabetes to gout. Today, there are extensive anecdotal tales of improved health from raw milk, such as relief from lactose intolerance. There is also research from Europe in the last few years indicating that children who drink raw milk have reduced rates of asthma and allergies. […] Read the entire article, originally published on

A Thanksgiving Hit: Apple Pie with Cider Jelly

The Thanksgiving season means a barrage of holiday recipes that overflow your inbox and social media feeds. Some of these are new and innovative, meant to impress guests and sure to fade away from the culinary canon. However, there’s a reason that certain other recipes stand the test of time: they just work. We’ve had […] Read More..

Release Your Inner Viking With New Book on Mead

Unlock the mead brewing secrets of the ancient Norse with homesteader and fermentation enthusiast Jereme Zimmerman’s new book Make Mead Like a Viking. Whether you’re new to homebrewing or looking to expand your current brewing and fermentation practices, Zimmerman’s welcoming style and spirit will usher you into an exciting new territory of wildcrafted experimentations, including more than 20 recipes to try.The fermentation […] Read More..

For a Very Viking Thanksgiving, Try Homemade Mead

The people who lived the Viking lifestyle a thousand years ago enjoyed myriad foods and beverages and throwing feasts that lasted several days to show off what they had stockpiled throughout the harvest season. Bring the Viking spirit of celebration to your Thanksgiving table this year with a traditional batch of spiced orange mead. Brew up the following recipe […] Read More..

Brew Outside the Box: Making Mushroom-Infused Beer

When thinking about drinking a nice cold beer, the flavor of mushrooms doesn’t exactly spring to mind. But for the adventurous brewer – and drinker – infusing mushrooms into brews is a great way to combine the medicinal benefits of fungi with one of the world’s most consumed beverages.The best part? You can grow mushrooms […] Read More..

Recipe: How To Make Your Own Chèvre Using Natural Ingredients

Making cheese at home may seem like a time and labor-intensive process, but what if you could make a delicious, high-quality cheese that practically “sits and takes care of itself”? According to David Asher, author of The Art of Natural Cheesemaking, you can.Asher is an organic farmer and goatherd, so his recipe for chèvre, or goat […] Read More..
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